Epiphany 1 :: Just a little bit of water...

2011 Scotland Trip 224

Rough waters

For as long as the church has been around there’s been an ongoing discussion [argument, some would say] around the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Theologians, ecclesiastics, liturgists, catechists, and ordinary pew-sitting Christians have pondered such questions as:

  • Why did Jesus get baptized?
  • Why do we baptize infants? [Meaning: Shouldn’t we only baptize adults?]
  • Is sprinkling better than full immersion? [For us proper Anglicans, sprinkling is much less messy!]
  • How much water is sufficient? One drop? Two? A bucketful?
  • Why do we even need baptism?
  • Will the unbaptized not get to Heaven?

Such questions can really make one’s head spin! It’s almost easier to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin…

I’ll never forget the family who wanted their newborn infant [number five] baptized. Their four older children had been baptized by my predecessor as infants in the little Episcopal Church I served and so they, being pros at this sort of thing, naturally wanted their newborn to also be baptized. [This was to be my first baptism.] Unfortunately, the only time they ever came to church was to have one of their little ones sprinkled. They were more than a bit indignant when I mentioned that I would like to visit with them prior to administering this primordial sacrament of the church, but visit them I did. My first question to them was: Why do you want little [let’s call him “Johnny”] baptized? After a few awkward moments they replied something to the effect that they saw baptism as a way to let the congregation know they had a new baby. Seriously. Baptism for them was little more than a baby shower [pun intended!].

Now, I do not mean to cast this family in a bad light. I am sure they were nice, well-meaning people. I never really go to know them, because I never saw them again after “Johnny’s” baptism. And yet I wonder if all the different ways the church has tackled the questions of baptism has taken its toll on the average Christian? It’s way too complicated, so let’s just do it. Well, perhaps not, but it is certainly easier to go ahead and do it than to try to explain what it’s all about!

So, in a nutshell, I’ll stick to the Church’s teaching about baptism: Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his [sic] children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God. [BCP, 858]

Kinda says it all, huh?

Now. About those dancing angels...

Link to RCL Lectionary for Epiphany 1

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